How to Visit National Parks for Free in 2024

Free National Park Days Dates in the United States in 2024

I’m a huge fan of the U.S. national parks and have been to dozens thus far with a growing wishlist of more to visit. We recently just completed an 8 parks in 8 days trip that was outstanding. Our national parks are truly a gift from previous generations, and our greatest national treasure. Thankfully, for the budget-conscious among us, the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) is once again offering fee free national park days throughout the year.

The 6 free national park days dates in 2024 are:

  • January 15, 2024: Martin Luther King Jr. Day (a Monday)
  • April 20, 2024: National Park Week First Day (a Saturday)
  • June 19, 2024: Juneteenth National Independence Day (a Wednesday)
  • August 4, 2024: Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act (a Sunday)
  • September 28, 2024: National Public Lands Day (a Saturday)
  • November 11, 2024: Veterans Day (a Monday)

There will not be free admission during the entirety of “National Park Week” (April 20 – April 28, 2024) as there had been a number of years ago – just the 1st day.

What Parks Participate in Free National Park Days?

The NPS oversees 425 national parks. A large majority of them do not charge entrance, admission, commercial tour, or transportation fees. 126 of them – often the highest traffic parks – do. Here’s a list of the 123 parks that typically charge entrance fees that will not on fee-free days.

free National Park days in US 2024

Tours, camping, concessions, or third-party fees are not covered, unless the individual park states otherwise. With some national parks, it might be really hard to get camping permits for these days, unless you plan ahead and reserve now. COVID has made travel to our National Parks even more popular than normal, because of a lack of travel restrictions (versus international travel).

Among the fee-free National Park Days participants are the 10 most visited national parks, where you would otherwise have to pay to get in:

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee)
  2. Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)
  3. Zion National Park (Utah)
  4. Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)
  5. Acadia National Park (Maine)
  6. Yosemite National Park (California)
  7. Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)
  8. Joshua Tree National Park (California)
  9. Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)
  10. Glacier National Park (Montana)

If you’re looking for other parks, you can see a full national park map here.

Remember to be careful with parks that are at a high altitude, suffer from spring-time flash floods, or are in northern locations in the spring and winter. This is the untamed land, after all. Check with the park that you’re interested in visiting to identify which roads and campsites may still be closed.

If you plan on living a life of recreation this year, the NPS’s annual $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass is a bargain. It allows unlimited entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including all national parks. I purchased one of these during a trip to Yosemite and Grand Teton, and we more than made our money back (versus day passes) on that trip alone and then visited more parks the next year. The pass lasts 12 full months after the month you buy it in.

Other Ways to Access National Parks for Free:

free national parks

Gold Star Families and U.S. Military Veterans Have Free Access to National Parks Indefinitely

Starting on Veteran’s Day in 2020, Gold Star families and U.S. Armed Forces veterans (including National Guard and Reserve) indefinitely have fee-free access (entrance and standard amenity fees) to national parks, wildlife refuges and other sites managed by the Department of the Interior, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, and Army Corps of Engineers. This was a great idea that I am surprised wasn’t implemented before. Identification required and more information can be found here.

Active U.S. Military Pass

Active U.S. Military and their dependents are eligible for a Military Pass annually. The pass costs $10 if processed online, but can be picked up for free in person with proper documentation.

National Parks Volunteer Pass

Volunteers with 250 service hours (over 1 or several years) with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program are eligible for a Volunteer Pass which will get them access to an annual National Parks pass each year. You will need to work with your local Federal recreation site supervisor or Volunteer Coordinator/Manager to track your hours and get access to the pass.

The Lands Access Pass for Individuals with Disabilities

The NPS Interagency Access Pass is part of the America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass series and is available free for U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities. The pass may be issued to individuals of any age that have been medically determined to have a permanent disability (does not have to be a 100% disability) that severely limits one or more major life activities.

National Parks 4th Grade Pass

To obtain the free pass, fourth grade students visit the Every Kid Outdoors website, participate in a short educational activity, and download a voucher.

Free Entrance to National Parks from your Library

National park passes are often times one of the free perks libraries offer. Check with your local library to see if they have a pass and for restrictions on how long you can reserve the pass. Warning: you may have to book it far in advance.

National Parks Senior Pass (Not Free, but Great Value)

While technically not “free”, one of the best deals EVER is the National Parks Lifetime Senior Pass. The National Park Senior Pass is available to citizens or permanent residents 62 years or older. The Annual Senior Pass is $20, but the Lifetime Senior Pass is only $80.

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